The Florida House of Representatives is slated to begin floor debate today on a bill that would ban automatic payroll deductions of union dues for government workers.
The bill would also require written authorization by union members for their dues to be used for political activities.
Both the House bill, HB1021, and its companion bill in the Florida Senate, are strongly opposed by unions who see them as nothing more than “union-busting” bills.
The unions argue that payroll deductions would still be allowed for voluntary 401(k) plans, insurance plans, and charitable organizations like the United Way.
“Why is it just unions?” asked Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a union representing Florida teachers. “If the concept is we don’t like paying for payroll deduction, that’s one thing. But if it’s only aimed at one group, and by the way … a group that has disagreed with the leadership of the legislature, it’s terribly unfair.”
Supporters of the bills say collecting union dues is an inappropriate role of government. The bills would give members more choice regarding how their dues are used, they say.
“I think it’s, for a union member, it’s a pro-union member bill because it gives them freedom of choice,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
“If you’re a union leader,” Hart said, “and you’re being a good steward of the union members’ money, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”
The bills would make it more difficult for unions to collect dues, which would have a “chilling effect” on union membership, said Irwin Scharfeld, the union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representing the city of Naples. That, he said, is the point.
“It has nothing to do with balancing the budget,” Scharfeld said. “That’s the biggest sham. None of these bills have anything to do with balancing the budget.
“It’s just to destroy organized labor in the state of Florida.”
Several Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, have also been working on legislation to end payroll deductions for union dues.
_Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/